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Editing is like housework, it goes unnoticed unless it’s not done. Here are five reasons why professional editing is a necessity for your writing.

Novelists love stories and are often motivated to write by the effects a story can have on a reader. There’s a real power in being able to touch the emotions of someone, a stranger, who lives far away or even far in the future. Most writers have felt this long reach that words can have. It has changed their lives. It has made them writers. And what better reason is there to write than to inspire others to follow their dreams?

And yet, too many authors waste that opportunity. They confuse their reader with awkward phrasing, distract with careless typos, or turn off a potential buyer with a poor quality product.

A well-edited novel, on the other hand, will have that power to reach the reader. It will attract attention, seep into the reader’s thoughts and emotions, and might even cause them make a change, to make a tiny difference. And a good quality product will always sell better than a cheap fake.

If you’re not already convinced, here are five more reasons why you need professional editing for your novel:

1. Investing in a professional editor is money well-spent

Editing is like housework, it goes unnoticed unless it’s not done.

Professional editing is an indispensable, not just a desirable, part of a novel’s journey to publication. Editing can make your good novel great, get readers talking, reach the ears of professional publishers, and catch the eye of movie producers. An editor will make sure the reader remembers the dazzling plot and characterization, and not the problems with grammar. It takes teamwork to craft a polished and captivating novel that could become tomorrow’s bestseller. In short, authors need editors.

2. Honest, objective feedback

Lots of authors ask friends and beta readers to take a look at their novel. Most people are flattered by the request and are happy to help.

While any feedback is welcome and can help improve the manuscript, friends tend to give a lot of positive encouragement. They can gloss over some of the novel’s shortcomings to avoid causing offense. And there could be those who are just a little bit jealous and who will gladly recount a whole list of failings.

However, professional editors are experienced at giving criticism. They are systematic and thorough, covering not only familiar issues of grammar and punctuation, but also matters of style, pacing, dialogue, plot twists, and fact checking (to name but a few). Above all, the feedback they give is honest and objective.

Like the author, editors want readers to focus on the narrative and not the misspelt words and absent apostrophes.

3. Editors work together with authors

Authors are proud of their work. They have spent many hours perfecting the text, gone to great lengths to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and reacted to comments and corrections from their beta readers.

But that’s unlikely to be enough.

Friends and beta readers will do their best, but they have their work, family and other obligations to consider. They can probably only get to your book in their spare time, reading a chapter or two a night.

Professional editors spend entire working days, even weeks or months, on a single novel. They work until they have a thorough understanding of the story. They are, therefore, in a much better position to point out contradictions in characters’ behavior, inconsistencies in syntax, and irregularities in the flow and formatting.

None of this is done in isolation. Editor and author have to work together. It’s the editor’s job to be honest with the author when suggesting improvements (such as rewriting, restructuring, or cutting sections) while respecting the author’s message, meaning, tone, and style. Both author and editor have a shared interest in producing a work that gets – and keeps – the reader’s attention. What’s more, with experience and knowledge of the book-selling market, an editor can suggest ways to take the novel in a direction that might better attract the eye of a publisher or agent, if that’s what the author wants.

4. An editor is a sounding board

Authors often pour their deepest feelings, and even secrets, into their novels. And, for that reason, they are often cautious about who reads their early drafts. They put a lot of thought into selecting beta readers, and they do this with some trepidation: friends could spot some of the more autobiographical elements in the novel, or they might think they recognize aspects of themselves in the characters (however tenuous). Some might even wonder why they’re not featured.

In such cases, authors can benefit from the impartial opinion of an editor. An editor takes a bird’s eye view of a novel, and can identify the elements that work and those that don’t and suggest the necessary changes. While editors often get to know authors well throughout the editing process, especially in the case of full, substantive editing, they are not concerned with your private life. They won’t be annoyed or flattered if they appear or not in the final version (although a credit is always nice).

5. Editing is a skill

It can be tempting to ask a friend to edit your book. Someone who is not an editor but who is good with language and is prepared to do the job for little or no cost.

The issue here is one of thoroughness. Editing is a profession like any other. It is their job to help the author produce a work that will keep the reader engaged and cause that magical, lasting effect the author set out to achieve.

Still not convinced? Why not give a professional editor a go? Any good editor will offer a free sample edit. Judge the difference in quality for yourself.

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BookBaby Editing Services


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Humans vs. Robots: When (And Why) You Should Use Editing Tools
How To Turn A Good Manuscript Into A Great Manuscript


Jim Dempsey

About Jim Dempsey

Jim Dempsey has written 9 posts in this blog.

Jim Dempsey is an associate editor at Novel Gazing. Novel Gazing offers professional editing services to authors and publishers. Quote the exclusive BookBaby discount code BOOKBABY10 to receive a 10% discount on all of Novel Gazing's proof-reading, copy editing and substantive editing services.

52 thoughts on “Why do you need professional editing for your novel?

  1. I agree and will add that it is even more important in a non-fiction book.

    Spelling of historical names and places have to be consistent.
    Is the paragraph clear or will it only appeal to specialists already in the know?


  2. Mark Elliott says:

    There are so many editors/editing services out there. How do you even begin to vet the best editor for your book. I have just finished a memoir that I’m interested in having edited


    1. Jim Dempsey says:

      Hi, Mark,

      I think the best way to find the best editor for your book is to ask as many editors as you can for a sample edit. From there, you can see if you like that editor’s feedback, judge if it has been useful or not and make sure that the editor hasn’t changed too much (or too little) of your text.

      Good luck with the memoir.


  3. Nancy Canu says:

    As an editor, I have to agree that a big part of editing is objectivity. We aren’t here to stroke your ego, so in some ways it’s better if we don’t absolutely adore your novel. You’re paying us to play the part of the uber-reader, the hypercritical know-it-all who finds every inconsistency and checks every fact. Authors who pout and fume when an editor points out a glaring historical faux pas or an improbable timeline need to check their egos. You hired an editor to pore over your manuscript–don’t be angry at them for doing their job.
    It’s also true that an author and their editor need to be compatible–the editor needs to understand and respect the author’s voice, and the author needs to respect the editor’s suggestions.
    If you want people to pay to read your work, you need to present them with a professional-looking product, and that means a manuscript that has been edited and proofread.

  4. I totally agree! My debut novel, Courageous Footsteps A WWII Novel, required a lot of research. I spent three years checking information and facts. Thank goodness, my editor had a history background and caught a few inconsistencies that I had missed. The money invested in a good editor is worth every penny.

  5. Tobie says:

    I’m a copy-editor for a government agency full of highly educated people. I’m constantly amazed by how many times someone has written something like, “as these five points illustrate,” and list seven points. Or, these: “we work towards,” and “we are enquiring.” If you don’t see the problems, you need an editor.

  6. Linda E. Williams says:

    Does anyone professionally edit middle-grade manuscripts? Orient Express is 32,000 words.

  7. rodney burke says:

    sounds good but $ 3500 all at once is a steep price to pay where there are very little hopes of recouping the cost…in traditional publishing that is. I will have to find alternative sources for my editing costs. this kind of money assumes I am working at a JOB ugh! 125016 times how much per word?

    1. Jim Dempsey says:

      Hi, Rodney,

      Editing can certainly be expensive, but as an editor (and author of this article) I’d have to say that you can’t afford not to have your book edited.

      There are various ways to reduce the cost of editing. One is to reduce the number of words. That might not be such helpful advice, so another way is to spread the cost. Have your book edited a few chapters at a time, as much as you can comfortably afford. That’s not an ideal way, for the editing process (it’s better for the editor to work on the whole book in one go), but it’s definitely better than no editing at all.

      Hope that helps.


      1. Julianne Smith-Devereaux says:

        Dear Jim,

        My name is Julianne Smith-Devereaux. I am contacting you for two reason’s, really. One is to ask what you charge for your editing skills. I have quite a large novel – 130,000 + characters – and I truly need an editor. My first book I had paid an editor good money, he took it, did NOT edit my non-fiction memoir and then proceeded to send it off to MY past PUBLISHER! Without one phone-call, without any communicaton, what-so-ever. It was HORRIFYING!
        So, yes. You definitely need your manuscript edited.
        Ok. So, my small ‘rant’ is finished.
        My second question is, if you do, indeed, edit, and I can pull off your prices ( I am on Disability), what will be my next step to ‘take you on’ so too speak? 🙂
        Thank You!
        Julianne Smith-Devereaux

  8. Duke Zimmer says:

    While much of what you say is true and valuable advice, there are “editors” who feel the need to re-write an authors work. Personally, I’m not interested in editors who feel the need to re-write and authors work. Of course, suggestions for changes are welcome when accompanied by a reason for the suggestion. Yes, I want to know that there’s a hole in the story that needs to be filled, or that I’ve used a phrase that’s trite or out of date. But ,please don’t re-write my dialogue. My characters are my characters. I know how they speak and what they think. So when you say dialogue editing, I wonder if you’re referring to an editor or a wannabe writer.

    1. Jim Dempsey says:

      I completely agree, Duke.

      When I mentioned editing dialogue in the article, I would say that it means making sure your characters’ dialogue is consistent throughout. And you’re right, the editor shouldn’t significantly change the dialogue (beyond correcting obvious grammar, punctuation, spelling mistakes, etc.), but should point out such inconsistencies, for example, and, as you say, explain them.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.


    2. Sally M. Chetwynd says:

      I agree with this caution. There are individuals out there who offer their services as professional editors, but who are wannabe writers. Fortunately, this is a tiny minority of editors out there. But woe to the author who unknowingly contracts with one.

      An extreme example: A friend of mine, a WWII fighter pilot, wrote a novel set in Indonesia at the outset of the American entry into WWII. The editor/publisher he hired kept rewriting his story for him because she could not fathom the concept of flashbacks and backstory, so she kept putting everything into chronological order. (Why and how she thought she was more knowledgeable than he about air battles and other military actions in the Pacific theater during WWII completely baffled him.) Besides mangling the manuscript, she engaged in a truckload of other, less than ethical actions. He spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours arguing with her and rewriting his story back to its original form, but she ended up publishing it without his approval of the proofs, and included her name in the copyright.

      I don’t know just how one best protects oneself from such characters, except perhaps to get recommendations from other editors and from authors who have had good experiences with ethical professionals.

  9. Cate Baum says:

    We specialize in indie book editing – and as partners of BookBaby, we give BookBaby Book Promo clients a discount! Take a look at the site if you’re looking for a professional editing service. We have three different types of edit for all stages of the process, and we have competitive pricing too, just for the indie pocket 😉

    1. Eleanor Prentiss says:

      My manuscript for Combat on the Home Front is not complete yet. It could run 130,000 words. It’s my first novel. I plan to use Bookbaby and Book Promo. What can you do for me?

  10. Elm says:

    Once used an editor who actually introduced errors in the work. Be careful out there – there are some really dodgy editors about.

  11. I often have close professionals edit my books. Each person gets 1 chapter only

    1. Kristian Sen says:

      Good idea. Do you find that some or your proof readers/editors need a little more to go on in order to understand the context in which things flow? Or, do you find that one chapter per person is good enough?

  12. Alex says:

    Great read, definitely making me consider making the investment. Does anyone have any recommendations or resources for finding a good editor?

  13. Kit Crumpton says:

    I am a first time author and Toastmaster who is glad to share my editing journey.
    I want THE best editor I can find because my book is part my life legacy that remains after I die. A quality product is important to me. So I went to a book store, and I bought the book “2015 Guide to Self-Publishing” because this book has an index of companies providing editorial services. Of course, I searched the web as well. Then I spent about ten hours of research. Here is a list of my most notable observations: [1] If an editor doesn’t have an email and a website, don’t do business with that resource because communication and availability is key. [2] Two websites I found had sample contracts, and the websites were informational so I was favorably impressed with them. As I examined each website, I started a checklist of what I was looking for in an editor. [3] I found a new company that claimed lots of experience amongst its team but I was disappointed with the interview. I got a sense that the touted experience was not genuine. [4] Similarly, when I asked another editor how many books she had written, the response was 150. When I looked for the books, I could only find one so this became a trust issue for me. [5] I laughed when one editor clearly proclaimed in her website that walking her dogs and taking care of her horse was a higher priority than providing an editing service. REALLY? :-)
    The Bottom line is, this is a precarious business, and it takes work, patience and a gut feel to find the right editor so do your homework first and interview them. When I chose my editor, I was thrilled. I experienced firsthand the value of a great editor as depicted in this article. My recommendation is to fork over the money and have respect for the person with whom you are doing business. Make it a win/win journey because the success of your book depends upon it.

    1. Sally M. Chetwynd says:

      Excellent, practical ideas!

  14. Toni says:

    I am in the middle of writing my first novel and the idea of someone editing my book makes me so uncomfortable. Has anyone edited a book that did not require many changes? As an editor, do you feel because someone is paying you to edit that you must make changes or suggestions regardless of the need? Help! I want to get my book edited, but it’s like someone judging my baby. The funny this is: I am generally not the least bit sensitive. Go figure.

    1. Jim Dempsey says:

      Good questions, Toni.

      First, some books certainly need more revision than others, and there are those that need very few corrections. And by ‘very few’ I mean only one or two per page. Hardly a page goes by without some remark. That may sound like a lot, but, in answer to your second question, none of those revisions are there for the sake of it. An author would spot superfluous changes anyway, so there’s no point in doing that.

      However, it’s not an editor’s job to make changes. You’re the author, and you should have full control over your text. The editor should give you a version of your manuscript that shows all the changes, so that you can either accept or reject them as you want.

      Also, it might be useful to bear in mind that editing is not about judging, but helping you to improve your novel. Any criticism should come with a solution, and it should be clear that the feedback and suggestions are not personal but refer only to the work, not the author.

      Think of an the editor as more of a wet nurse rather than a disapproving mother-in-law. Your baby won’t be judged, but kindly nurtured.

      And, if that comparison doesn’t help (and I can imagine it doesn’t), you could always send a few pages first to see how that goes.

      All the best with your writing.

      Kind regards,


    2. Mary Ellen Aschenbrenner says:

      As a leader of a local writers group in Somonauk, IL, I have advice for all of you writers….

      .A good editor makes a good writer into a great writer!

      Join a local writing group…make it one that does more than read copy. Find one that takes it upon themselves to edit and make suggestions. Find one with published writers as members. Different editors (readers and writers) have different strengths. Utilize as many of these strengths as you can. Often two or more members will take issue with a ‘same’ wording or description. Pay attention and listen to advice. Bury the ego! They’re ‘just’ words and they do not have copyright on them – yet.

      I have found it tremendously helpful to make copies of each person’s work and pass it out to members to follow along. Another helpful hint is to allow someone else to SLOWLY read your copy to the group while everyone else follows along. You will often ‘hear’ some of your own mistakes.

      If the reader stops or hesitates while reading your copy, there is likely something in it that is not quite correct or clear. Make a notation of this…and if the reader has to go back through the copy to find ‘something’ he surely missed, you have some rewrite to do on that section to clarify things.

      Each person makes comments and or corrections following the reading….and sorry folks, but you MUST develop a thick skin. As a writer you have the right to take each word as personally yours and resent anyone eliminating words like …just…very…that. But DON’T.

      Sorry folks, those words are empty words and since you or a publisher pay by the word, eliminate all of them if it does not change meaning.

      I have hundreds of published stories and I also call myself an editor…yet, I do not trust my stories to my editing skills alone…

      Bless my editors! All of them! My book, Born to be a Star (I Float in a Galaxy of Hot Air) is in edit…It’s fourth or fifth one and each time some little thing shows its face….I think it’s about ready for you-the public- to read…and edit if you choose.

  15. Gippy says:

    This is great information and, although I’ve spent almost six months editing my novel, I still would feel uncomfortable not having a professional edit it also. If I may have a related question, since you do touch on ‘beta’ readers in your blogs. Someone told me not to allow anyone to read my book until I get it copyrighted. My book is shortly going to some beta readers friends who are professionals in crime and medical issues and I would like to say I trust them not to share my MS, but other people come in and out of their homes with teens, etc. So, does it make sense to copyright it first? Then, what happens after BookBaby’s editors are finished with it? It will most surely be somewhat different than the copyrighted version. How should I work this? Much appreciated for any response. Thanks.

    1. Sally M. Chetwynd says:

      Whoever told you not to let anyone read your manuscript before it was in print gave you very foolish advice. If you are that concerned about copyright, you can quite simply and cheaply print out a copy, take it to your post office, get it hand-cancelled with the date clearly stamped on the envelope, and mail it to yourself. Never open the envelope. As long as it is sealed, you have proof of having written those words in that order as of the date of the hand-cancel.

      Copyright law in the US states that your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as you produce it, but that could be hard to prove. Of course, electronic copies of MS Word documents (or other software text documents) are dated as to the most recent date that the particular file was saved. I save my manuscripts every day as a new document (“MyStory – 2016-04-25” then “MyStory – 2016-04-26”, etc.) so they are dated both in their names and electronically. That serves as proof, too, that you had this document in hand on this date.

      But I don’t believe that theft of creative material is all that common. (Do you really have to worry about teens stealing your work?)

      Ethical editors do not publish your work without your approval and sign-off of the final proofs. Most editors are ethical.

      And it is a good idea, as you suggest, to have professionals in the subject that your story is about (crime, medical issues, etc.) read your work so they can advise you on proper procedure, protocol, etc. I am nearly finished with my second novel, in which a minor character, who is a good friend of my protagonist, is a local police officer, and he is engaged professionally in some of the scenes. I have been helped enormously by a police office in my town who has looked at my scenes and advised me about how my police character should behave. Like he said, I don’t want my scenes to be Hollywood hyper-drama nor comedic like Barney Fife in Mayberry RFD. On my most recent draft, having employed his comments, he said he could not suggest any further improvements and thought I had come a long way in understanding police procedure. So I was pleased. He will not only receive credit in my book but will get an autographed copy and an invitation to the launch party. If he comes, I’ll finally get to meet him!

      I was unemployed during the editing process of my first novel, so I was more than broke. I am a certified copyeditor, which helps in my own self-editing process. But I did sent out my story when it was about 80 percent done to three beta readers, and again when it was done, to eight beta readers, half of them published writers and half of them non-writers. The comments I got from both groups were invaluable in polishing the story.

      If something in the text raises a red flag with a reader – whether or not a writer – that thing should be inspected closely and reworked to eliminate the issue, no matter how minor it may seem. If it interrupts or breaks the reader’s involvement in the story, the trust between the reader and the author may be compromised or damaged. You, the author, are not obligated to acquiesce or submit to every comment, but you should regard each comment seriously and try to understand why the comment was made.

      Good luck!

  16. Hi Jim:

    I was impressed with your article/blog, ‘Five Reasons Why’, etc, which I got from WD-Online.

    Let me cut directly to the chase — this isn’t my first rodeo. I have six books on Amazon and I’m working on CH-38 of my seventh. It will be the second thriller in my Kellogg & Beck detective series. The first is, “The Legs Collector”, and it’s selling at a trickle.

    I’m a retired radio news writer/reporter with thirty seven years in the business. Police procedural is my cup of tea.

    There’s a story about why I went SP/POD — I’ll give you the short version. I’m seventy eight years-old and don’t have time to play the publisher/agent game any longer.

    My main concern is comma errors. I need editing/proofing to be sure my comma placement is correct.

    Long story short: I do all my own interior and cover design in the 5X8 paperback trim size. You can check my work on Amazon.

    With your permission, I can send you a couple of PDF attachments from my current project, “Return of Evil”.

    Your call, let me know.

    Thank you for your time,

    Ted Tillotson

  17. I have zero money for editing (don’t ask, it’s complicated). These are certainly making me think though. I could perhaps get some people in the field to read, or with time, talk someone in to sponsor edits (or get a very small amount together myself). Sry. Rambling. The point I’d like to make is that this, like many other BookBaby blogs, though very useful, do not touch on what their topic looks like in the field of poetry. I am nearly ready to go ahead with publishing (many changes and formats since I released it under a different title on KDP, 1/1/2016), although stalling a bit on rewriting the bio and opener/’dedication’ for lack of a better word (quotes and definitions and suchlike in this case). The BB guide to formatting (I’m doing ebooks only) also needs clarification or a separate post, partly to address poets. I’ve been able to figure it all out but it required extensive reading between the lines and guessing unstated assumptions about software. And I know a great deal more than your average bear about computers. Where does one go to hire a poetry editor? I’m self taught, so have few connections to .Poets/academia. The online chat service (inside the BB quote builder) was very helpful. I know BB can’t address every aspect of every type of book on blogs, but having seen at least one ad where they pitch directly to poets about how Walt Whitman and others self published, I think we should get a bit more attention (why must my book be listed as ‘art/photography’ in the quote builder rather than poetry?).

  18. Trish Titus says:

    I am a first time author and I must say there is a lot to learn and do before getting a book published. A little overwhelming. I’ve been reading through the questions and replies here, a lot of valuable information to think about and consider. My first book and subsequently 2nd and 3rd books deal with the death of pets. So I am a non-fiction author.

    Couple questions for starters:

    1. Is it a good idea to get your book(s) copyrighted first as well as get an ISBN? I have trust issues and the whole copyright thing is just a tad bit confusing. One minute I think I get it and then after reading other comments and doing some research I’m not sure.

    2. If I publish through BookBaby, do I have to use your editors?

    3. With my books, I have photos that will go in my book. When I have it edited I am assuming that the photos do not need to be in my manuscript until I am ready to upload, is this a good assumption?

    4. I know it’s important to get an editor, are their discounts out there to help bring down the cost for an editor?

    5. How do I find an editor who has possibly also dealt with the loss of a pet?

    For now that’s all I have. I’m sure I’ll have questions later.

    1. BookBaby Andre says:

      Hi Trish. In answer:
      1) It is always a good idea to copyright your work with the US Copyright Office ( You can get your ISBN through BookBaby if you use our service.
      2) You do not have to use BB’s, you can use whatever editor you want to.
      3) Never embed your images into your manuscript. Here’s some more info on images:
      4) That’s going to take some research on your part – no easy answer here. Of course, I’m inclined to suggest BookBaby’s editing service…
      5) Again, that’s going to take some research and time to source out an editor who meets that criteria.

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